Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Byron Dorgan (D-ND) Announces His Retirement

Today, Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced that he will not seek re-election in 2010. Its a sad day for North Dakota politics.

I remember so vividly in 1980 campaigning for Byron Dorgan when I lived in Jamestown. My old friend Rich Madsen was a huge Dorgan fan and he got me to support him and campaign for him. I remember several times eating breakfast with Byron in the restaurant in the Jamestown Holiday Inn (now extinct) talking with him about policy issues and how to go about convincing people in dripping red Republican North Dakota to vote for an intelligent person for Congress.

He made it to the House in 1980 and did so quite comfortably. Three years later in June 1983 when I was in Washington DC on a one month detail in the Division of Research Office I visited Byron in his Capitol Hill office and went out to lunch with him. He joked then asking me if I wanted to help him booby trap the entrance to the Capitol Hill Republican Club just down the street. I had my picture taken with Byron as we both stood on the steps of the Capitol. We never booby trapped the CHRC but it wasn't for lack of desire!

The only policy issue I ever really disagreed with him on was his continual, endless, foolish support for the Garrison Diversion Project, a massively wasteful water development project that would destroy or alter 17 National Wildlife Refuges in North Dakota, while providing irrigation water for 0.2 percent of the agricultural land mass of the state but at a cost of billions and billions of dollars. He never budged. However no politician in North Dakota could be a politician without supporting that wasteful piece of crap project.

I last saw him in the Minneapolis Airport in 2006 just before the election. We were both waiting to board a Northwest flight to Washington National. I walked up to him, smiled, asked if he remembered me, and said "So, Byron, are we going to beat the Republicans and take back the Senate this fall?" He chuckled and said "we fucking better or I'm going to quit."

We won and the Republic was saved. Two years later we elected an adult to the White House. But still Byron is calling it quits.

I think I'm going to miss having him in the Senate.